OXFORD — The Oxford Hills School District froze spending last week for everything except health and safety needs and essential curriculum purchases, Superintendent Rick Colpitts told directors Monday night.

He said some of the $37 million budgeted for this fiscal year has been spent. However, if there are expenses beyond those budgeted for 2013-14, the district has just $200,000 left in its contingency fund to cover them.

“That’s concerning,” he said, because of unknown fluctuations in the price of oil, gas and other items.

Colpitts said, for example, if a class wants to have a field trip related to the curriculum, it would be considered at this time. However, if a teacher wanted new chairs for a learning center, that would be denied.

Business Manager Cathy Coffey said Tuesday, “As far as this fiscal year, we only have $200,000 we can spend,” she said.

The freeze was instituted Nov. 14.

Some directors expressed concern about the fall spending freezes that have been instituted for the past several years.

“I don’t like the culture of budget freezes,” said director Jared Cash of Norway, chairman of the Strategic Planning Committee. “It doesn’t seem like a typical way of doing business.”

Cash said that as the Strategic Planning Committee continues its work to map out the future of the district’s educational system, he would like to see planning that would eliminate annual budget freezes.

Committee members said there has been a mentality of ‘use it or lose it’ that must stop. It was suggested that unused budgeted money be carried over to the next fiscal year for use when necessary.

“For 47 years we’ve said (cash flow) will get better,” but it hasn’t, longtime director Don Gouin of Norway said.

SAD 17 was formed 47 years ago.

Colpitts said the problem is simply underfunding. “We’re bloodletting rather than sugarcoating.”

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